Графични страници
PDF файл

awe or approbation, because the mind has, as it is termed, an objective rather than a subjective tendency. What, then, are these subjective elements of awe and approbation which attract our attention so little ? for it appears that the inquiry should commence with them and not with their counterparts, the objective qualities. In investigating virtue, we should, as it seems to me, begin by asking, What is approbation, or the effect which virtue has upon us? In examining sublimity, we should begin by asking, What is awe, or the effect which sublimity has upon us? And in analysing beauty, we should begin by asking, What is admiration, or the effect which beauty has upon us? This, therefore, we shall do.

What, then, is admiration? It will readily be conceded that, like awe and approbation, it is a feeling of the mind, and nothing more than it is felt to be; there has been no dispute about that; but that is too general. What kind of feeling is admiration? for the mind has two kinds, and these two are not only different but at variance. The mind is subject to emotions and sensations, and all its feelings come under one or other of these two divisions. Sensations are colour, odour, flavour, sound, heat, cold, hunger, thirst, fatigue, repose, and such like; emotions are despair, anger, fear, remorse, joy, love, gladness, pity, excitement, and such like. Sensations are sometimes described as gross, sensible, organic feelings; and emotions as ideal, mental, sentimental feelings. Sensations and emotions are thus very different from each other, and are, in fact, as was said above, at variance. Now, to which of these two classes does admiration belong ? I have no hesitation in asserting, what all must yield, that it belongs to the second class—that of emotions. A quality of beauty in an external object therefore awakens in the mind an emotion of admiration. But how can this be? Let us inspect the fact more closely. Nothing in external objects can be the immediate cause in the mind of anything but a sensation. One quality may produce colour, another odour, another flavour, another heat, and so on; but these are all sensations, and it is inconceivable that any quality of matter could be the immediate cause of an emotion in the mind, since otherwise brutes and the lower animals, who receive the same sensations as we do from the presence of objects, would also experience the same emotions, which they certainly do not. How, then, is the emotion of admiration awakened or induced by objects? The process must evidently be mediate, indirect, reflex; and as it is with one emotion so it is with all. They are necessarily the product of reflex action. They require an operation of the intellect, an exercise of the understanding, before they can be born in the mind. Before we can be angry or glad, joyful or dejected, we must employ our intellectual faculties; we must interpret our sensations; we must decipher external signs. A man may call me by the most opprobrious names in an unknown tongue, and I shall not become angry, because I cannot interpret my sensations; a man may write me a letter threatening me with death, but in a strange language, and I am not alarmed, because I cannot interpret my sensations. You may caress a lobster for a long time without making it good-humoured, because it cannot interpret its sensations; you may shout at a fly the length of a summer's day without terrifying it, because it cannot interpret its sensations. Note, however, the effect of such treatment on a more intellectual animal. Caressing makes a dog joyful, and threats make him fearful. Why? Because he can and does interpret his sensations. An interpretation of sensations is therefore requisite to the production of all emotions; and the more difficult the interpretation the higher and more rare will be the emotion. Emotion therefore presupposes intellect, and elevated emotions an elevated intellect. These remarks will, I trust, be borne out by an examination of the question before us.

We have reached the true psychology of the problem when we understand that one-half of beauty-viz., the subjective element of admiration-depends upon an exercise of the intellect. But what does the objective element consist in? What is the condition in every beautiful quality ? or is there any definable condition ? If any such exist, it cannot, as we have already seen, be a sensible quality, for no sensible quality can be the immediate cause of an emotion, and we before found that the subjective or mental factor was actually an emotion. An object, therefore, which we call beautiful must be endowed with this quality, whatever it be, by the mind, and then resorted to again by the mind, as though the object possessed that quality inherently and independently. A rigid scrutiny of the matter would lead us to conclude that this quality had something to do with association, analogy, resemblance, or suggestion; in fact, it necessarily follows, that if a quality be not actually innate it must be associated. To this conclusion the latest speculations on the subject have conducted us, and I shall not cast about for a new hypothesis, but content myself with testing it inductively, since, moreover, after a long examination, I am convinced of its truth. Assuming then that this admirable quality in objects consists in suggestiveness, what laws does it obey, or can any rules or regulations be connected with the occurrence of beautiful phenomena ? In answer to this question I shall put forth the following code, which has been arrived at through assiduous reflection on the subject, and proceed to prove each law by a subsequent analysis of the facts :

1. The subjective element of beauty consists in the

emotion of admiration. 2. The objective element of beauty consists in the

quality of suggestiveness. 3. Beauty attaches only to utility, 4. The appearance of beauty varies inversely with the

appearance of utility.

These four rules will, I think, be found upon examination to contain the explanation we are in search of in this department of psychology. In any event, they shall serve our turn till better ones have been discovered. We shall therefore deal with each of them separately.




This proposition has already been partially elucidated, but must now be tested more severely. An operation of the intellect-an interpretation by the understanding—an exercise of the faculties, is the connecting link between the occurrence of a sensation and the emotion which follows it in the mind, as has already been shown. Now, in experiencing an æsthetic emotion, in admiring or recognising a beautiful quality, or whatever we choose to call the process, we cannot too carefully distinguish between the sensations which precede and the emotions which follow this operation of the intellect; for until their difference is made palpable and obvious, we shall be involved in continual confusion. All authors recognise the importance of the sense of sight in the appreciation of beauty; for colour is a sensation entirely dependent on the eye, and whoever is deprived of colour wants one of the essentials to appreciating beauty; and whoever has never seen shape or motion, but only felt them by some other sense, likewise lacks important material for æsthetic operations.

Colour is a sensation and therefore subjective; and, since we have already seen that admiration, which is also subjective, is an emotion, it follows that colour cannot in itself be beautiful. We often speak, however, of a “ beautiful” colour, and it is unquestionable that certain

« ПредишнаНапред »